North Carolina has emerged as the epicenter of the region’s fight over wood pellets, a popular substitute for coal in European power plants that critics say is making climate catastrophe worse, not better. Pressure from activists has garnered rhetorical gestures from Governor Roy Cooper against the international biomass trade, but state officials have continued to grant requests from Enviva, the world’s largest pellet maker, to expand production.
The oil industry faces an uncertain future. The world is rapidly waking up to the severity and immediacy of the threat from climate change. At the same time, electric vehicles are getting cheap enough to compete with internal-combustion engines.
What if excess carbon in the atmosphere could be converted to more useful forms? That’s the ultimate goal of carbon conversion companies such as Opus 12, a startup in Berkeley, California. Making stuff out of carbon dioxide could be a trillion-dollar industry by 2030, and it creates an economic incentive to start removing carbon from the atmosphere sooner rather than later, which is a critical piece of most scenarios for limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.
Questions remain about where the money is coming from to fund both the petition drive for a public vote on FirstEnergy’s subsidies and the inflammatory campaign against it by a group called Ohioans for Energy Security.
To support decarbonization efforts, we will have to overhaul our transportation system. Over the course of the past century, we used fossil fuels to revolutionize the way we move from place to place — creating unprecedented mobility, but substantially contributing to climate change. About 30% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. But we can look to key states for a glimpse of what climate leadership on transit looks like.
States across the country have led efforts to revamp the electric grid: modernizing century-old systems, promoting energy efficiency, and investing in distributed energy generation that replaces central grids. Through smart investment and incentives, the federal government has the ability to usher in this new energy future nationwide, and ensure that all share equitably in the benefits — and that those who suffer from the highest energy burden receive the most help.
For years, red and blue states across the country have been building the policy architecture for ambitious national climate action. Part II of "Searching for a New Deal on Climate" explores how the federal government can follow the states’ lead on setting economy-wide greenhouse gas targets, establishing renewable energy requirements for electric utility portfolios, and building out new renewable energy generation.
Is there a version of decarbonization somewhere out there that is aggressive enough to meet the bar set by the scientists, yet pragmatic enough to work politically and as a matter of law and policy? Yes, there is. We should look no further than the blue and red states that are currently leading on climate to see the strategies in action that would achieve the swift and far-reaching emissions reductions we require.
This summer, ExxonMobil announced it would be working with carbon removal company Global Thermostat to help scale up their technology, with an eye towards large industrial applications. The announcement is the latest indicator that fossil fuel companies are looking ahead towards a world that’s far less friendly towards their products and the emissions they produce.